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Guest lecture: "The Chatting Dead: The Changing Concept of the World after Death in Japan"

Nov 13, 2018 04:00 pm to 06:30 pm
Organiser: Professorship of Cultural Economic History

Speaker: Hiroo Sato (Tohoku University)

The Chatting Dead: The Changing Concept of the World after Death in Japan

The Japanese medieval worldview, which saw this world as a temporary lodging in which to dwell before arriving in the far otherworldly pure land began to show signs of transition and change from the 14th century. From this point onward, the sense of reality attributed to the world of the other shore rapidly faded, and the priorities in people’s concerns and religious values shifted in emphasis from the other world to this one. They no longer held the ideal of arriving in a distant other world after death. Instead, they now hoped to enjoy the life of this world to the fullest, and after death to sleep peacefully in some corner of it where they could continue to live in some way with their descendants. This can be understood in terms of a decline, a shrinking of the world of the other shore and a commensurate expansion in the significance of this world. A process of secularization of the other shore began, and continued through to the modern period. The image of the realm of the dead was liberated from the Buddhist worldview. The dead went to an afterlife in which relatives and colleagues gathered and enjoyed a “life” without suffering or sorrow, with plentiful food, clothing and lodging.

Prof. Hiroo Sato is one of Japan’s most eminent and prolific scholars in the field of medieval and early modern Japanese religion and intellectual history. Orion Klautau, formerly at the Cluster in Heidelberg and now Associate Professor at Tohoku University, was one of his doctoral students. He also served as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters at Tohoku University that initiated a double degree doctoral program with Heidelberg University funded by the Japanese Government.

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